THE horse and pony racing community is praying for good news next week which will save the remaining 20 racedays of the current season.
Lack of insurance cover is the reason the season came to a sudden stop at the end of May. Already a few meetings have been lost as the organisers wait for news from the underwriters who are considering whether or not to offer the sport a new policy.
Antoinette Gallagher of the Midlands Horse and Pony Racing Association has been deeply involved in trying to resolve the issue. Speaking to The Irish Field yesterday, she said: “We have given the underwriters all the information they asked for and we have told them we will meet any provisions they require. It will probably be next week before we know for definite but you could say we are cautiously optimistic.”
She added that the insurance crisis has not been caused by any policy claims or accidents. “This is a wider problem affecting a lot of equine-related activities.”
When the insurance premium for pony racing took a hike last year, Horse Racing Ireland stepped in and contributed €12,500 to ensure that the fixture list could go ahead. Gallagher said: “HRI has been very good to us and has promised to help again if we can just get an insurance quote. RACE has also been very supportive and given our riders some training and assessment.”
All horse and pony racing, from Dingle to Donegal, is covered by the same policy, so it is an ‘all or nothing’ scenario for the sport. Even the exhibition races planned for the Curragh on August 20th and October 3rd, and at Listowel on September 24th, depend on the pony racing sector getting its own insurance.
In the meantime, approximately 10 Irish-trained horses - with trainers and jockeys - are travelling to Scotland this weekend for a flapping fixture.
Gallagher said: “Because we are hopeful the season here will be saved, owners are keeping their horses in training and some of them are heading to Hawick in the Scottish borders for racing this weekend. I know the jockeys are looking to pick up other rides too.”